Berastagi, The Beautiful Karo Highlands
The picturesque town of Berastagi in the beautiful Karo highlands, is 70 kms from Medan on the way to Lake Toba. Situated at an altitude of 1300m, the town has a cool climate, ranging between 17 to 20 degrees Centigrade, making a refreshing break from the heat of the city. Days are extremely pleasant while nights can be quite cool.
The town developed in the 1920’s as Dutch hill station and today has become a popular weekend destination for Medan residents.
The landscape here is dominated by distant views of the smoking volcanoes Mt. Sinabung and Mt.Sibayak. On the western edge of the town, Gundaling Hill rises above the surrounding plateau to provide some spectacular views of these two towering volcanoes.
Berastagi is famous for its flowers, vegetables and fruits and its markets constantly hum with activity. The most famous produce probably Marquisa or passion fruit. Sweet oranges are another delicious specialty. Berastagi’s produce also exported to Singapore and Malaysia are: cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, red chili, and eggplant. The local markets swarm with people doing business and selling their wares. Here you will see scenes from traditional Karo life as well as everything from jungle miracle cures and second hand shoes on sale.
Just like in any other region in Sumatra, Berastagi restaurants serve spicy food. For a taste of spice, try local dishes such as Chicken Rice and Medan Kwe Tyaow.
If you’re not interested in something quite so spicy, Berastagi also has many restaurants offering Western cuisine, so you can choose any according to your budget and palate.
As this is an agricultural town, the produce here is fresh and delicious. Along Jalan Veteran there are a variety of food stalls. Aside from the famous Marquisa passion fruit, sweet oranges are another Berastagi specialty. Go to the market and pick up some of the local fruits which make nice, healthy desserts or handy snacks along your journey.
You can also drive to Medan and go to Merdeka Walk. It’s the first Tensile Structure (Alfresco Outdoor Concept) in Indonesia and the hottest place to hang out in Medan city with many choices of cafes and restaurants.
The wide main street of the town is filled with restaurants and hotels, souvenir shops, and the central market attracts farmers from all over the area. You can buy souvenirs here such as Batak Ulos-hand woven cloth from Medan, rattan plaitwork, hand-printed batik, paintings, carvings as well as some delicious Marquisa fruits to bring home with you.
There are pleasant colonial-style hotels with golf courses in this area, especially at Gundaling Hills. There are also several inns nearby Berastagi.
Enjoy the cool atmosphere and magnificent views in this quiet town. Live on the edge and take the chance to climb a volcano. Both Mt Sibayak and Mt Sinabung can be climbed in a day if you have a reasonable level of fitness. It’s not advised to attempt these climbs if you are on your own as trails are not always clearly marked and it is easy to get lost.
Some hotels/resorts offer golf courses with the fabulous scenery as the background.
Explore while you shop for fresh, tropical fruit and vegetables. In the town itself, there are three markets: the picturesque general market, which takes place five times a week (not Wed or Sun) behind the bus station; the daily fruit market, which also sells souvenirs, to the west of the roundabout; and the Sunday market, which takes place every other week on top of Gundaling Hill and attracts such novelty acts as the teeth-pulling man (Rp200 per tooth) and the snake charmer. Venture into the surrounding volcanic Karo highlands where you will find thick pine forests, soothing hot springs and traditional villages.
You will find some fine examples of traditional Karo Batak architecture in the villages around Berastagi. The best known is Lingga Village, 15 km from Berastagi. In Lingga you will find about a dozen traditional houses with their distinctive horned roofs.
Berastagi is a small town with one main street so you can explore it easily on foot or using public transport. Opelet – local public mini van buses – operate to the surrounding villages and are run from the bus terminal.
For more flexibility, you can rent a motorbike from Villa Flores Restaurant or other rentals you can find around the town. Try getting around the traditional way by taking a leisurely ride in a horse carriage called a “sado”.
From Kualanamu International Airport, you can hail a cab or take a bus to Berastagi. It’s located about 66 km from Medan and the journey will take around two hours.
• Since the weather is quite cool, it is advisable to bring a sweater or jacket.
• You can exercise all your haggling skills if you shop at the traditional market.
• It’s best to avoid here coming on a Sunday as many day trippers from Medan come to Berastagi to climb Mt. Sibayak
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